The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 51: God's Care for the Poor
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In the sabbatical year the Hebrew slaves were to be set at
liberty, and they were not to be sent away portionless. The Lord's
direction was: "When thou sendest him out free from thee, thou
shalt not let him go away empty. Thou shalt furnish him liberally
out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress:
of that wherewith the Lord thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt
give unto him." Deuteronomy 15:13, 14.
The hire of a laborer was to be promptly paid: "Thou shalt
not oppress a hired servant that is poor and needy, whether he
be of thy brethren, or of thy strangers that are in thy land: . . .
at his day thou shalt give him his hire, neither shall the sun go
down upon it; for he is poor, and setteth his heart upon it."
Deuteronomy 24:14, 15.
Special directions were also given concerning the treatment of
fugitives from service: "Thou shalt not deliver unto his master
the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee. He shall
dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall
choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best: thou shalt
not oppress him." Deuteronomy 23:15, 16.
To the poor, the seventh year was a year of release from debt.
The Hebrews were enjoined at all times to assist their needy
brethren by lending them money without interest. To take usury
from a poor man was expressly forbidden: "If thy brother be
waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt
relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he
may live with thee. Take thou no usury of him, or increase: but
fear thy God; that thy brother may live with thee. Thou shalt
not give him thy money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals
for increase." Leviticus 25:35-37. If the debt remained unpaid [p. 533] until the year of release, the principal itself could not be
recovered. The people were expressly warned against withholding
from their brethren needed assistance on account of this: "If
there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren, . . . thou
shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor
brother. . . . Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked
heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand;
and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest
him nought; and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be
sin unto thee." "The poor shall never cease out of the land;
therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand
wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy
land," "and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that
which he wanteth." Deuteronomy 15:7-9, 11, 8.
None need fear that their liberality would bring them to want.
Obedience to God's commandments would surely result in prosperity.
"Thou shalt lend unto many nations," He said, "but thou
shalt not borrow; and thou shalt reign over many nations, but
they shall not reign over thee." Deuteronomy 15:6.
After "seven sabbaths of years," "seven times seven years,"
came that great year of release—the jubilee. "Then shalt thou
cause the trumpet of the jubilee to sound . . . throughout all your
land. And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty
throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall
be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his
possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family."
Leviticus 25:9, 10.
"On the tenth day of the seventh month, in the Day of Atonement,"
the trumpet of the jubilee was sounded. Throughout the
land, wherever the Jewish people dwelt, the sound was heard,
calling upon all the children of Jacob to welcome the year of
release. On the great Day of Atonement satisfaction was made for
the sins of Israel, and with gladness of heart the people would
welcome the jubilee.
As in the sabbatical year, the land was not to be sown or
reaped, and all that it produced was to be regarded as the rightful
property of the poor. Certain classes of Hebrew slaves—all
who did not receive their liberty in the sabbatical year—were
now set free. But that which especially distinguished the year
of jubilee was the reversion of all landed property to the family of [p. 534] the original possessor. By the special direction of God the land
had been divided by lot. After the division was made no one was
at liberty to trade his estate. Neither was he to sell his land
unless poverty compelled him to do so, and then, whenever he or
any of his kindred might desire to redeem it, the purchaser must
not refuse to sell it; and if unredeemed, it would revert to its
first possessor or his heirs in the year of jubilee.
The Lord declared to Israel: "The land shall not be sold forever:
for the land is Mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners
with Me." Leviticus 25:23. The people were to be impressed
with the fact that it was God's land which they were permitted
to possess for a time; that He was the rightful owner, the original
proprietor, and that He would have special consideration made
for the poor and unfortunate. It was to be impressed upon the
minds of all that the poor have as much right to a place in God's
world as have the more wealthy.
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